TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan says it has recalled its ambassador to Honduras amid moves by the Central American country to establish formal diplomatic ties with China.
Taiwan and China have been locked in a battle for diplomatic recognition since the sides split amid civil war in 1949. Honduras President Xiomara Castro announced last week that her government will seek to establish diplomatic relations with China, which would imply severing relations with Taiwan.
The switch would leave Taiwan recognized by only 13 countries, as China spends billions to win recognition for its “One China” policy.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin dismissed reports that Honduras switched relations after Taiwan declined requests to buy $2.5 billion in the country’s sovereign debt.
“We welcome the Honduran government’s positive statement to develop relations with China. We are ready to establish and develop bilateral relations on the basis of equality and mutual respect,” Wang said at a daily briefing on Thursday.
In a statement, Taiwan‘s Foreign Ministry said it was “deeply dissatisfied” with the breaking of relations that had lasted more than 80 years and urged Honduras to “be careful of the risks of China‘s commitments made on its offer of diplomatic relations.”
Castro said on her Twitter account that she instructed Honduran Foreign Affairs Minister Eduardo Reina to start negotiations with China and that her intention is to “expand frontiers freely in concert with the nations of the world.”
Reina left for China on Wednesday, leading a delegation that included lawmakers Xiomara Hortencia Zelaya Castro and the secretary of the Congress, Carlos Zelaya Rosales - the president’s daughter and son-in-law.
The Honduran ministry confirmed the trip without providing any details as to the purpose, but it corresponded with Taiwan’s decision to withdraw its ambassador.
The loss of Honduras would leave Taiwan with formal diplomatic ties with just 13 sovereign states, including Vatican City. In Latin America, it also has relations with Belize, Guatemala and Paraguay, with most of its remaining partners being island nations in the Caribbean and South Pacific, along with Eswatini in southern Africa.
Honduras would become the ninth diplomatic ally that Taipei has lost to Beijing since pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen first took office in May 2016. She is due to step down next year at the end of her second term.
Despite China’s campaign of isolation, Taiwan retains robust informal ties with more than 100 other countries, most importantly the U.S.
AP writer Marlon González in Tegucigalpa, Honduras contributed to this report.
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